Countdown, #3: How to Write a Poem (with recording)

My last five posts of 2019 are reruns of five of the most viewed posts on this site during the year.


How to Write a Poem

Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up

the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through

curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read

the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you

need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first

gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,

but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create

and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.

Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.

There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog shit while scraping it from the boot’s sole.

Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly

and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,

grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.


* * *

“How to Write a Poem,” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

23 thoughts on “Countdown, #3: How to Write a Poem (with recording)

  1. “Scratch notes in the dirt and watch them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first gusts.” What a perfectly haunting line! Since alleys are almost invariably nameless, to use the word implies forgotten or unimportant. There is a wonderful weltschmerz to it.

    Oh to be able to put lines like this down… you are an emotional magician in all the best ways!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I used to be the lead singer in a Top 40/hard rock cover band called Eden Alley. David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, The Police, U2, Sting… we played it all, and pretty damn well I like to think. I was never meant to be a rock star, but I sure liked being up front getting 80 – 95% of the attention! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

                • It would have to be a beginner’s band playing three chord rock. I was once offered the opportunity to collaborate with a country-western songwriter. He approached me after a reading, but I was 30, a young, arrogant poet who knew nothing, and I never followed through. Today, I’d jump at the chance. It would be a new challenge, and one to relish.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • You didn’t miss anything. Collaboration in the way you have described sounds like the usual deal: you write the lyrics and I will find all sorts of interesting ways of benefitting from them without paying you what you deserve. “Collaboration” in the music industry is code for exploitation. Stars collaborate. Up and comers form bands and work together towards an explicit common goal that benefits all (the band becomes famous, makes a career sustaining amount of money for each band member, etc).

                    Your “arrogance” was your natural subconscious instinct to not get screwed over by a self-proclaimed artist. If there is not an ironclad written guarantee between two professionals, you are not collaborating. You are just building the Pharaoh’s pyramid.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Ah, that could be. There is no money to consider in poetry collaborations, or what little payment exists is so little as to remove that issue from the equation. Something to be grateful for, I imagine.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • You are Okaji Sensei. You need nothing and nobody. If you want to delve into music, why not buy a budget digital, multitrack device or software, and do the whole Beat poetry thing of adding music to the back ground of your recitations. Even the most minimalist shakuhachi whispers or a couple of well timed plucks of the mandolin could be great musico-lyrical moments.

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. A great recording… and now I’m all fired up to write my next wrong, but wait, I’m playing in b-flat, instead of, the fourth, the fifth, The minor lift, the major fall…best I wake and do It all again……

    Liked by 1 person

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